Over the last few weeks, many recreation organizations, businesses, Native American tribes, and conservation groups have been concerned about the future of public lands, and in particular the future of Bears Ears National Monument and the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act enables the President to designate existing areas on public lands as National Monuments. National Monuments are flexible designations, and the management rules are responsive to the unique needs of individual places. Bears Ears National Monument was designated in late 2016 because of its outstanding historical, cultural, and recreational values. A handful of legislators, led by a vocal group in Utah, have urged President Trump to repeal or roll back the monument (which would be unprecedented) and today, nine Democrats from Western states asked the President to uphold his pledge to be a good steward of public lands.
The Democratic lawmakers are led by Sen. Tom Udall (NM) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA), and include Dianne Feinstein (CA), Martin Heinrich (NM), Ron Wyden (OR), Patty Murray (WA), Michael Bennet (CO), Jeffrey Merkley (OR), and Catherine Cortez Masto (NV). Their letter to President Trump urges him to “honor your promise to be a great steward of our public land by upholding the existing protections for the 157 National Monuments that have been designated through the years by nearly every President since the Antiquities Act was enacted into law in 1906.” They point out that rescinding or weakening the protections for Bears Ears National Monument would leave that landscape exposed to inappropriate development and threats to invaluable cultural resources and recreation opportunities. They also argue that this could affect all other national monuments, and “threatened the cultural, historical and biological wealth of our country.”
Access Fund and Outdoor Alliance have been working on advanced protections for the Bears Ears region for several years, and we supported the national monument designation after the legislative process(Utah Public Lands Initiative) failed in the 114th Congress. Many other groups and businesses – including Patagonia – have been outspoken about protecting Bears Ears, seeing it as a bellwether for the administration’s approach to public lands.